Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the globe was facing the most dangerous decade since the Second World War as he accused the West of trying to wipe Russia “off the face of the political map”.
In a broadside against the US and its allies, which he accused of inciting the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Putin said the West was playing what he cast as a “dangerous, bloody and dirty” geopolitical game that was sowing chaos around the world.
During a lengthy speech at a conference of international policy experts, he said Moscow has no intention of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though on Wednesday, he monitored drills that simulated a response to a nuclear attack on Russia.
Ultimately, Mr Putin said, the West would have to talk to Russia and other major powers about the future of the world.
Mr Putin cast the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between the West and Russia for the fate of the second-largest eastern Slavic country. It was, he said, partly a “civil war”, as Russians and Ukrainians were one people.
Kyiv has flatly rejected both those ideas.
“The historical period of the West's undivided dominance over world affairs is coming to an end,” he told the Valdai Discussion Club.
“We are standing at a historical frontier: ahead is probably the most dangerous, unpredictable and, at the same time, important decade since the end of World War Two.”
The Ukraine offensive is only a part of the “tectonic shifts of the entire world order”, the Russian leader said.
“The unipolar world is becoming a thing of the past.”
Mr Putin added that the West is not able to “single-handedly govern humanity” but is “desperately trying to do it”.
Russia did not consider the West to be an enemy, despite the current phase of confrontation, he added.
Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, triggering what some have called the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union and the US came closest to nuclear war.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed while the US, the EU and other allies have imposed the most severe sanctions in history on Russia, one of the world's biggest suppliers of oil and gas.
Asked about a potential nuclear escalation, Mr Putin said the danger would exist as long as nuclear weapons existed.
Quoting a 1978 Harvard lecture by Russian dissident and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mr Putin said the West was openly racist and looked down on the other peoples of the world.
“Power over the world is what the so-called West has put on the line in its game — but the game is dangerous, bloody and, I would say, dirty,” said Mr Putin. “The sower of the wind, as they say, will reap the storm.
“I have always believed and believe in common sense, so I am convinced that sooner or later, the new centres of the multipolar world order and the West will have to start an equal conversation about the future we share — and the earlier the better.”
Mr Putin also accused former British prime minister Liz Truss of being “a bit out of it” over comments she made about nuclear weapons.
The Russian president hit out at Ms Truss as he sought to defend his country from the criticism of Western leaders since the invasion of Ukraine.
It comes amid concerns that with Russia struggling to make ground in Ukraine, Mr Putin could turn to nuclear weapons.
“We’ve never said anything proactively about possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia. We have only hinted in response to those statements that the Western leaders have made,” he said, according to a live translation on Sky News.
Referring to the former prime minister, he said: “Liz Truss, the ex-prime minister of the United Kingdom, she said it directly.
“In her conversation with a representative of the media, she said that the UK is a nuclear power and the prime minister has, in their mandate, the possible use of nuclear weapons.
“I’m not quoting her and she said that she’s prepared to do that.
“And no one responded in any way.
“Well, she just made a folly, she was a bit out of it.
“But can you say these things publicly? Well, even if she said it, someone should have corrected that.
“Washington, for example, could have said that they have nothing to do with that.”
It was not immediately clear what comments Mr Putin was referring to, but during the Tory leadership contest over the summer Ms Truss had been asked about the potential use of nuclear weapons.
During a hustings in August, she was asked how she would feel about having to make decisions about nuclear warfare, she said: “I think it is an important duty of the prime minister, I am ready to do that.”